US & Canada

US House passes budget bill that would defund healthcare law

Speaker of the House John Boehner and other House Republican members hold a rally at the US Capitol on 20 September 2013
Image caption House Republican members, including Speaker John Boehner, rally at the US Capitol after passing a temporary funding measure on Friday

US lawmakers have passed a budget bill that would keep the government operating, while defunding President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

The Republican-led House of Representatives voted 230-189, largely along party lines, in favour of the controversial measure.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has promised to strip the "defund Obamacare" provision next week.

Mr Obama vowed to veto the bill in the unlikely event it ever gets that far.

During a speech at a vehicle factory in Liberty, Missouri, on Friday, he criticised Republicans for the vote.

"They're focused on politics, they're focused on trying to mess with me," he told his audience. "They're not focused on you."

'Deadbeat America'

The government faces a potential shutdown on 1 October if Congress and the White House do not agree on a temporary budget measure.

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Media captionPresident Obama used a vehicular metaphor to frame the US budget situation

A temporary bill is needed because Washington's longstanding budget stalemate has derailed the annual bills that would set the country's budget.

A government shutdown would delay pay for federal workers, including some military members, send non-essential employees home, close national parks and shut passport offices.

But programmes like air traffic control, food inspection and the US border agency would keep running.

The Republican-sponsored stopgap bill proposes funding federal agencies at an annualised rate of more than $986bn (£615bn), but includes a provision that strips federal funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Also known as Obamacare, the 2010 law requires businesses with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance to all their full-time staff, or pay a series of increasingly severe penalties.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has called for an end to the law because it "is turning our full-time economy into a part-time economy".

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans were "simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice" between passing a bill without the provision or forcing a government shutdown.

"The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for three years," he said in a statement. "The Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare."

The US also faces a deadline to raise the debt ceiling, which authorises the US treasury to borrow up to a set limit.

In Missouri on Friday, Mr Obama said that if Congress fails to raise that level, "the United States will default on its obligations". "Basically, America becomes a deadbeat."

Mr Obama has said he will not be forced into making concessions as he did during the 2011 debt crisis, where he accepted a $2.1 trillion spending cut over a decade.